Dr. Maoshing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D.
of us have experienced feelings of spaceyness, together with difficulty
focusing and a slight feeling of being disoriented. When these feelings
cannot be associated with any identifiable disease or condition, I group
them under the nonspecific category called “brain fog.”
Most people’s episodes of brain fog are brief and fleeting, but for some
the feeling is semi-permanent. It is one of the most frustrating and non
specific conditions that patients complain about because it robs them of
their quality of life. Those afflicted are often not sick enough to be
bedridden, but are not well enough to enjoy a productive life. Brain fog
can be associated with other conditions where maintaining mental focus
is an issue, as in Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit
Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Autism.
The inability to concentrate can affect both adults and children alike
and is often associated with other physical, psychological, and
emotional problems. Some causes relate to infectious diseases such as
Lyme disease, Epstein Barr virus and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that go
undiagnosed and untreated for years. Physical changes from concussive
accidents, low blood pressure, and menopause can leave people dazed and
unfocused for months and even years. Neuropsychological problems such as
Anxiety, and insomnia can also produce alarming rates of
cognitive decline. In some cases there may be added complications such
as memory loss.
In Chinese medicine, the ability to concentrate relies heavily on the
abundance of vital energy (Qi) and a smooth flow of nutrient rich blood
to the brain, providing for a clear mind, healthy heart, and radiant
spirit. The source of the nourishing vital energy that is essential for
clarity of mind comes from the normal digestive functioning of the
stomach, spleen, and pancreas as well as the kidneys. Excessive damp and
mucous build-up in the digestive organs, notably the spleen, prevents
pure energy from rising to our heads and denies the energetic
nourishment needed for clear mental activity and a bright spirit.
In my experience poor diet and inadequate sleep are the most common
causes of digestive weakness. Excessive consumption of foods such as
sugars, dairy, wheat and fried foods are commonly implicated in the
production of dampness and mucous.
It is important to first pin point the underlying cause of the brain fog
and determine how the pure energy is being obstructed from rising to the
brain. Treatment is often two fold: first, we focus on removing the
cause of the fogginess, and second, we strengthen and harmonize the
functioning of the digestive organs and of the heart blood circulation
to increase production and flow of vital energy and restore clarity of
A successful treatment involves the following: Changing one’s diet to
remove the foods that contribute to dampness and/or heat, and to include
foods that regulate blood sugar and nourish bodily functions; weekly
acupuncture to direct the flow of nourishing energy to the brain;
Chinese herbal tea to restore organ function and balance; and regular
energy enhancing exercise and meditation to improve circulation and
Gradually, over the course of several months, our patients observe their
Vitality returning and they are able to regain a normal and full life.
|Dr Mao’s Case Studies
Here are two typical cases of patients with brain fog and the
treatments they received.
The first involved a teenage girl who, despite being a good
student, struggled with concentrating in class and completing
her homework. She would often study well into the night because
it took her twice as long to complete her school assignments as
her classmates. A psychiatrist diagnosed her with ADD and
recommended she take prescription medication. Her mother was
concerned about the long-term health risks of prescription
medication, so she bought her to us in an attempt to find a more
natural approach and solution.
Upon questioning, I discovered that the young girl’s diet was
inadequate and she overextended herself with school commitments
and sporting activities, and therefore was not getting adequate
sleep at night. From a Chinese medical perspective, I diagnosed
her as having weakness in the stomach/spleen and kidney systems.
My lifestyle recommendations included: eating 5 small nutritious
meals per day; avoiding all refined starches and sugars; getting
to bed by 10 pm; and having regular acupuncture and herbal
She recovered completely within three months. This was because
of her consistent efforts to modify her lifestyle, drink the
herbal tea and come for weekly acupuncture treatments.
The second case involved a female in her mid-thirties who,
despite having seen various specialists, was not diagnosed or
treated effectively for her condition. She was experiencing
constant fatigue, muscle and joint pain throughout her body, and
had difficulty performing even simple tasks such as reading. She
was unable to think clearly or concentrate for any length of
time. She dragged herself through life even though she appeared
normal. This caused her further frustration because the people
around her could not understand why she was unable to function
I determined that she was suffering from Chronic Fatigue
Syndrome. In my experience many of my chronic fatigue patients
have been exposed to viruses like Epstein-Barr and Cytomegalo
that stress and weaken the immune system.
In Chinese medicine, conditions like these are due to an
invasion of damp and heat pathogens. These pathogens weaken the
functioning of the spleen and kidney systems and lead to an
inability to produce adequate energy for normal immune and brain
functioning. The dampness and heat obstruct the muscle
meridians, often causing pain and inflammation and they also
depress the digestive functioning of the spleen, stomach and
pancreas, which under normal circumstances work together to form
our vital life energies. Overall, her ability to produce
life-giving energy was chronically compromised.
Her treatment plan focused on supporting her vital energy and
organ systems along with restoring her immune function.
The comprehensive treatment plan incorporated the following:
1. Diet to reduce inflammation
2. Daily Qi Gong and Tai Chi exercise
3. Weekly acupuncture
4. Daily herbal tea
After 4 to 6 months of regular weekly treatments she was 95
percent recovered and back to living a full and normal life.